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A Prophet

roman school

The work is documented as forming part of the Borghese Collection since 1790; the historic family inventories ascribed it to the Lombard painter Girolamo Muziano. It depicts a prophet who is difficult to identify. His representation seems to be the result of a combination of Mannerist and Flemish influences within late 16th-century Roman culture. His large hands crossed over his chest and the placement of the subject against a dark background lend the composition a powerful emotional and dramatic charge, which is further emphasised by the ecstatic gaze and parted lips of the imposing elderly man.

Object details

Second half of 16th century
oil on panel
cm 100 x 79

Rome, Borghese Collection, 1790 (Inv. 1790, room VIII, no. 30; Della Pergola 1959); Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, p. 29. Purchased by Italian state, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1906 Luigi Bartolucci (pest control);
  • 1965 Alvaro Esposti (frame).


The provenance of this painting is still unknown. It was first mentioned as forming part of the Borghese Collection in 1790, when it was described in the inventory of that year as ‘a prophet, by Muziano’. That attribution was repeated in the Inventario fidecommissario (1833) and in Giovanni Piancastelli’s profiles (1893); Adolfo Venturi (1893) accepted it without reservations. By contrast, Roberto Longhi (1928) rejected this name, instead ascribing the panel to ‘a late Mannerist Lombard who had absorbed Flemish influences’. On the occasion of the publication of the second volume of paintings of the Galleria Borghese in 1959, Paola della Pergola ascribed the work to a late Mannerist Roman artist influenced by Scipione Pulzone and Girolamo Siciolante da Sermoneta. Her opinion was partially accepted by Kristina Herrmann Fiore, who in 2006 listed the work as by ‘a Flemish master active in Rome’. The variety of styles and influences evident in this composition make it difficult to favour any of the hypotheses put forth thus far, such that the safest attribution is to an anonymous, late 16th-century Roman painter. For her part, Patrizia Tosini (2008) forcefully rejected the name of Muziano, rightly proposing that the work shows similarities to the late production of Jacopino del Conte.

  • C. Platner, Beschreibung der Stadt Rom, III, Stuttgart 1842, p. 293;
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 99;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 162;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 208;
  • U. Da Como, Girolamo Muziano, Bergamo 1930, pp. 154, nota I, 204;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, pp. 103-104, n. 149;
  • J. J. Marciari, Girolamo Muziano and Art in Rome, circa 1550-1600, Ph.D. Diss., Yale University 2004, p. 489
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, Galleria Borghese Roma scopre un tesoro. Dalla pinacoteca ai depositi un museo che non ha più segreti, San Giuliano Milanese 2006, p. 108;
  • P. Tosini, Girolamo Muziano 1532-1592. Dalla maniera alla Natura, Roma 2008, p. 511, E. 98.